The following is an excerpt from an interview with Hirsi Ali.
Q: You view the West as being at war not only with terrorists but with Islam itself. Who do you think will win?
A: The West will be victorious because the ideas of life are just far superior to the ideas of death. The question is what price we want to pay to win. How many people should die before victory? How much money and resources should we spend? We’re just not being effective now because we are being nice and avoiding the subject of Islam. We need to talk about Islam, about what’s in the Quran. The debate right now among Westerners is very defensive; all people want to prove is that they’re not Islamophobes.
Q: Consequently, according to Paul Berman in his new book The Flight of the Intellectuals, you’ve received “dreadful treatment” from, and have been trivialized by, the intelligentsia. Do you agree?
A: He’s addressing a debate within liberalism. He is, just like me and I think many others, surprised—and that’s an understatement—that some liberals choose to defend ideas that are very illiberal and choose to look away from practices that are even more illiberal. Why are they excusing radical Islam? That fascinates Berman and it also fascinates me, what the presence of Islam does to the liberal psyche in the West.
Q: What does Islam do to the liberal psyche?
A: Confuses it. The liberal psyche wants to protect minorities, to apologize for imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and the appalling treatment of black people during the civil rights movement. At the same time, they want to continue to defend the rights of individuals. They’ve convinced themselves that the best way to do that in general is to defend the cultures that are non-white. But what they forget, and what they’re being confronted with, is that non-white cultures contain misogynistic, collectivist, tribal, gay-unfriendly and female-hostile traditions. And so they’re confused: on the one hand, they’re looking at minorities as groups they need to save and speak up for, and on the other hand, they’re confronted with the ideas and practices of individuals within those minorities that are very undemocratic and appalling, really.
Q: You believe there is no such thing as moderate Islam. If that’s true, why do so many Muslims in the West say they’re horrified by violence perpetrated in the name of Islam?
A: I haven’t heard anybody say they’re horrified. Just to compare, many Americans, Canadians and Europeans protested the war on Iraq; they gathered themselves, they sent lots of emails, there was a lot of activism, they marched against this war. I haven’t seen that kind of thing from Muslims saying, “We’re against the numerous terrorist attacks all over the world carried out in the name of Islam.” No marches, no organizations, nothing. There are individuals, like Irshad Manji, like me, born into Islam, who stand up and say, “Hey, we don’t like this.” But we haven’t seen any kind of institutionalized protest by Muslims. That is the big question mark: are Muslims silent because they agree with the terrorist attacks? Or because they don’t know how to express themselves?
Q: One of your more startling arguments in Nomad is that Christian churches should proselytize in immigrant communities to try to convert Muslims.
A: Look at the amount of money Saudi Arabia spends on coming into Muslim communities in America and Europe, building schools and also taking leaders and training them in Mecca and Medina, then replanting them. It’s surprising that no other group of people is targeting the same communities. If you look at Western civilization, at the institutions [and movements] that were engaged in changing people’s hearts and minds—the Christian Church, humanists, feminists—they are doing next to nothing in these Muslim communities. When I was in Holland [recently], I heard about a Christian mission that had been proselytizing in Morocco. The government kicked them out and sent them back to Holland. I thought, “You don’t have to stop proselytizing—just go to the Muslim community in Amsterdam west and carry on there.” But of course there, they’re not only going to face the radical Muslims as opponents, they’re also going to face the multicultural opponents, saying they’re not supposed to be telling people to leave their religion.
Q: So how would they do it?
A: Next to every mosque, build a Christian centre, an enlightenment centre, a feminist centre. There are tons of websites, financed with Saudi money, promoting Wahabism. We need to set up our own websites—Christian, feminist, humanist—trying to target the same people, saying, we have an alternative moral framework to Islam. We have better ideas.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali ( pronunciation (help•info); Somali: Ayaan Xirsi Cali; born Ayaan Hirsi Magan; 13 November 1969) is a Somali feminist activist, writer, and politician. She is the daughter of the Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. She is a prominent critic of Islam, and her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh's movie Submission led to death threats.